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The Birth of Pleasure

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Carol Gilligan, whose classic In a Different Voice revolutionized the study of human psychology, now offers a brilliant, provocative book about love. Why is love so often associated with tragedy, she asks. Why are our experiences of pleasure so often shadowed by loss? And can we change these patterns?

Gilligan observes children at play and adult couples in therapy and disco
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Knopf (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carol Gilligan, the woman whose writings helped me write my thesis. It’s her worldview, her perception of little things, her interpretation of myths and stories, her belief in the possibility of change, her faith in women as the harbingers of that change, her passion in her writings and her love for a better kind of living that makes her writings so interesting, so pleasurable to read.
Debra Moffitt
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Gilligan describes something I've perceived in the dance of male/female relationships -- the emotional disconnect that takes place and the ways they've come about. I will re-read this book. My first impression is that "Pleasure" should actually read "joy" and be related to an inner state, an inner marriage and not the relationship with another. Once the inner marriage between the opposites takes place, this gives birth to joy and contentment. When two people who have done their inner work and re ...more
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I saw this on the sale book table, looking very pink and whatnot, I thought "What's that dumb girly book going to be?" But when I saw that Carol Gilligan was the author, I had to pick it up. Carol Gilligan wrote In a Different Voice, which I read in my Development Psychology class in college. I haven't been really moved to dip back into psychology of this sort since but Gilligan has quite a lot of really important stuff to say in this book. I find myself wanting to tell people about it qui ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly interesting and experimental meditation on love--on how love requires repairing childhood breaks that teach us how to play our roles and cover our emotional range and intuition.

I appreciated the breadth of sources, the work done in recovering vocality and literal orality in the subjects. I think the poetics became obfuscatory at times, and I don't know that the knowledge gained here is new to the empathetic and literate individual, but on the whole, I was glad to have read this bo
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an excellent book on modern culture/psychology/male-female relationships. It takes the Psyche-Cupid myth as its core theme and uses modern psychology, literature, biology, sociology to try to understand why we are often so screwed up in our relationships with ourselves and with others. It has too much in it to cover in a short review, but here are a few memorable pieces:
- Anne Frank's diary has 3 versions, the one she wrote originally in her own voice, a version that she edited after hea
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I must confess, this is not the kind of book that tops my reading list but after a very memorable meeting with Carol Gilligan herself I couldn't pass the opportunity to get a signed a copy of one of her publications.

The Birth of Pleasure captured my interest because of it's title but inside is a superb side by side analysis of her interviews with children and couples in crisis as well as literary work from the allegorical myth of Cupid and Psyche to Anne Frank's Diary to Proust, Tennessee Willia
Lynn Vannucci
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"My tongue suddenly flew above me then
Suddenly light and limitless
I turned my eyes toward it
astonished at its ambition
I never intended it to say that much!
But it sang, on and on
I put the diamond in my ear
Closed my eyes
And embraced the arias my tongue sang and sang
Above my head, free, unbound and tireless." Elizabeth Austen
i should really be liveblogging this. i just got to an extended (inset) quote of indigo girls lyrics. usually i am probably the best possible audience for something like that but i think the intro of "The Indigo Girls, two women who are among the many contemporary popular women singers..." jarred. apart from getting me to sing galileo to myself, i'm not sure the intended point, because it led without commentary into an extended recap of a dream carol gilligan had about her mother's life choices. ...more
Andrea Hylen
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 2002, this book is a must read now! Carol Gilligan's research interwoven with myths and memories paint a picture of when girls and boys dissociate from pleasure and their voices. In this era of #metoo and #timesup, her observation of adolescent girls and when they begin to deny what they know, the underlying question asked by one woman, “Do you want to know what I think? Or do you want to know what I really think?” Another question, "Can we change the patterns?" ...more
Jul 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: from-library
Mired amidst a virtual avalanche of incomprehensible feminist bullshit are bad poems, bad song lyrics, a badly re-tooled Oedipus, a soporific recitation of Psyche & Cupid, and (very occasionally) a genuine insight or two.

This book must exist simply to increase the number of books in the world: I can see no other purpose for it. The only possible reason to read such a meandering, faux-intellectual, threadbare bromide is for the sport of hunting down the seemingly accidental point, far too few of
This is one of those books I'm [edit almost] giving five stars, but don't feel able to recommend. It feels like on a very deep level the author 'gets it'. What it is, I'm not sure, though I would point to the title. She revealed to me a world where it's possible to share pleasure with other people in a way that isn't shameful. Like, deep, wholesome pleasure. It was interesting to see that while sometimes this includes sex and is related to sexual exploration, what she's talking about is not sex ...more
Robert Frecer
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gilligan uses a questionable but confident poetic method to analyze the myth of Cupid and Psyche. She arrives at a hidden message about gender, relationship and inner emotion; then, she proceeds to make that message universal, buttressing it by applying the same poetic method to many different texts, such as Anne Frank's diary, her own couples therapy sessions, Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", Jamaica Kincaid, Freud's early case studies, and others. This idea was novel to me and the book works sur ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simultaneously relatable and cerebral, Carol Gilligan tells the stories that have colored and informed our ideas and narratives of love and relationship, all while interweaving real stories or brokenness, journey, and healing. The book was a tad dense and would’ve felt more approachable if had more than three chapters, but overall well pleased!
Liyana Silver
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sumptuous journey through western mythology and psychology, fully redeeming our joy, pleasure, and embodied knowing as women. A must read.
Robyn Owens
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Speaks of love, romance and relationships. Uses classic books, stories, and myths to point out that yes, “love hurts”. Love is often accompanied by tragedy and pain.
Mark Darrah
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Carol Gilligan has written a fascinating book. Using a multifaceted approach, she examines the origins of dissociative trauma -- that psychological split within ourselves where we can know and not know, feel but not feel -- and its path to the suppression of pleasure and authenticity. Gilligan argues that the foundational myths of Western society are virtually all based on trauma, societal control, and violence. The author takes her readers on a journey through memory, literature, psychological ...more
May 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Fascinating, thought-provoking, though sometimes it felt a bit circular. I guess it makes sense that a therapist would keep repeating the main themes, to keep them fresh in the reader's (patient’s) mind.

Read at times more like lit crit than I expected - she uses a few particular fictional works as symbols of deeper human problems - Cupid and Psyche in particular, but also Twelfth Night and The English Patient. I liked thinking about psychology in fiction and how to incorporate themes of disassoc
Sep 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Carol Gilligan's ability to transition from idea to quote to support was absolutely amazing. This was a near seamless work that absolutely blew my mind. I can't remember half of what she said, but reading it revolutionized my perspectives on relationships and love. What is more important, Love or the Law? Truth or Relationship? Why is love so often a tragedy? A beautiful narrative that I recommend. ...more
Samara O'Shea
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is a compelling read largely because of the language. Gilligan has a great turn of phrase. I also enjoyed it because the author discusses her therapy sessions with couples, and I'm studying to be a therapist. Of course, this might not interest everyone.

As for drawing a "new map of love," I felt it missed the mark. She certainly kept up the conversation about love and held her own. Alas, there were no truly new concepts presented.
Lynn Vannucci
Dec 10, 2006 rated it it was amazing
"My tongue suddenly flew above me then
Suddenly light and limitless
I turned my eyes toward it
astonished at its ambition
I never intended it to say that much!
But it sang, on and on
I put the diamond in my ear
Closed my eyes
And embraced the arias my tongue sang and sang
Above my head, free, unbound and tireless." Elizabeth Austen
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I can't believe I ate the whole thing! But really, a very timely book, considering my other recent reads (Against Love, A Room of One's Own). Gilligan pulls together work and ideas from multiple disciplines very effectively. It makes sense more now than I think it would have at any other time in my life. ...more
I read this for a class with the author entitled Resisting Injustice. While I enjoyed what Gilligan calls her associative writing style and appreciated what she said about children's indoctrination into patriarchy, I didn't get a lot out of the book itself. I would have given it two stars but for the interesting conversation it provoked in class. ...more
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
so far an intriguing and wonderful read...
Finished the book and was grateful to be exposed to carol gilligan and her thinking about women and their voice. this book takes her thoughts even further as she talks about both men and women's voices in relationship to love and each other. a lovely mix of psychology, poetry, literature, and myth.
Stace ginsburg
Jun 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
interesting perspective on love: and how boys & girls are conditioned differently w/ social conditions --but also rooted in such deep mythic themes & elements to 'split' from love. interesting perspective on developmental splitting, trauma, dissociation & love and pleasure. ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love her use of mythology, fiction stories, non-fiction writings, and psychology studies (from the past and present). Instead of writing a text book, she uses these works to tell a story that reveals what the birth of pleasure can be.
It changed the way I look at the world.
Gilligan has some beautiful theoretical concepts related to the way trauma silences personal voice and agency, and the ways people can reclaim that through re-discovering "pleasure" in being. I'm hoping to apply her ideas to my research project. ...more
Mya R
May 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Written in 2005:
"Not sure whose review put this book on my list, but it was sooo bad I didn't make it past the first chapter (and it was a struggle to get that far). Lots of layered and loaded words which are never defined and an inability to write a clear sentence, let alone lay out a thesis."
Nov 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: feminine theorists
A study of women's pursuit of love and pleasure via the mythology of Eros and Psyche. I think Anne Carson did it better (and more ruthlessly in terms of details) with Eros the Bittersweet. ...more
Nov 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is one of my favorite authors. I've only written two authors fan letters and she is one of them. I recommend both her book highly.
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Carol Gilligan is Affiliated University Professor at New York University School of Law.

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